Addressing Cybersecurity Concerns for Oil and Gas Industry with Rugged Mobility

Secure mobile communications are critical to oil and gas operations. A Ponemon Institute study reported, “68% of respondents said their operations have had at least one security compromise in the past year, resulting in the loss of confidential information or OT disruption,” and “61% say their organization’s industrial control systems protection and security is inadequate.” The security of mobile devices, the data they contain, and the communication they enable have become increasingly important. Computing devices that are in the hands of offshore mobile workers need to be built not only to survive harsh environments, but do so securely.

Understand the cyber-threat landscape

For offshore operations, it isn’t enough to assume the devices and communication protocols being used offer sufficient to protect the enterprise any longer. Offshore Energy Today identifies its top 10 cybersecurity issues threatening the industry with its most important issue being “lack of awareness about cybersecurity among employees.” It’s important that the risks and prevention of cyber-attack are communicated throughout the operation and that regular updates are delivered along with advice on what individuals can do to keep their company protected.

Complete security at the edge of the network

While oil and gas companies deploy highly secure applications and communications protocols to protect their industrial control networks and reduce downtime, they need to consider the devices on the edge of their networks. The devices that connect to these systems are often vulnerable to intrusion even if specialized software has been installed in them. Full protection requires that secure features are built into the hardware itself so that sophisticated cyber-attacks that circumvent software protections are thwarted at the hardware level. Rugged mobile devices go beyond what consumer-grade tablets and laptops can do with software solutions that don’t provide this level of protection.

The varied uses of wireless communication go beyond voice and text communication to include Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, wireless oil-exploration efforts, remote performance monitoring, and non-voice services that use General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) for monitoring well head activity. Because these other connections may travel over the same network infrastructure, cyber breaches can expand across the network to allow attackers access to systems beyond workers’ mobile devices. The Offshore Energy Today report recognizes the possible effects of this kind of vulnerability when it lists its third most important threat as “using standard IT products with known vulnerabilities in the production environment.” IT departments should consider the various ways cyber attacks penetrate their enterprises and look for mobile devices that embed security measures in hardware to thwart any attacks that may get through software and operating systems level protections.

Oil and gas companies should opt for purpose-built enterprise grade mobile devices that fit the following criteria:

1. Layered security approach

Security begins with the devices at the edge of the enterprise and the applications they host. Oil and gas companies need to protect their systems and operations at every level so that cyber threats are deflected at multiple points.Opt for enterprise-grade mobile devices that have security built in on the hardware and software levels.

2. Low failure rates to ensure uptime

Resilient mobile computers that continue to perform even after long work shifts under hostile conditions let workers monitor conditions and avert failures that can cause disruption and loss of production.

3. Rugged durability to meet harsh offshore environments

Exposure to harsh environmental conditions can make consumer grade mobile computers useless. Select rugged devices that can easily survive water, dirt, oil, and drops to keep operations running smoothly.

4. Flexible form factor

Different jobs require different ways of interacting with computers so that workers have the most appropriate form factors for their tasks. Options like the Panasonic Toughbook 20, a 2-in-1 computer that easily converts from a tablet to a laptop by connecting its companion keyboard, ensures that workers can type on physicals keyboard when necessary.

Panasonic mobility solutions are designed to enhance offshore operations and boost cybersecurity. Our complete portfolio of laptops, tablets, 2-in-1 devices and handhelds are ideal for the demanding conditions of the oil and gas industry. For more information on secure and rugged mobile solutions for offshore operations, please stop by the Panasonic booth #4205 at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) 2017